High Weald

gill stream wild garlicA report that will interest anyone curious about the history, ecology and management of the High Weald's steep-sided, wooded ravines (gills) has been published by the High Weald AONB Partnership.

An internationally important habitat

Gills – defined as deeply incised, wooded ravines that have been eroded by the streams flowing along their base – are a characteristic features of the High Weald AONB and found across the landscape. Although they support internationally important groups of plants (particularly lichens, mosses, liverworts and ferns) they remain understudied, and questions remain about their ecology, history and management – questions that this report helps to answer.

Report content 

Written by Dr Philip Sansum, a woodland ecologist with extensive experience in the High Weald, the report addresses a range of issues relating to gills, including: their distribution, ecological significance, history, key species, protection status and threats.

The report also provides some much-needed management guidance, as well as presenting the results of ecological survey work and suggesting how future monitoring might best progress.

Key conclusions 

  • Gills are of very high environmental value but relatively weakly protected by the existing framework of nature conservation designation.

  • Effective conservation and management is hindered by both a lack of survey information and a poor understanding of the relationships between woodland management (and other human impacts) and gill woodland biodiversity.

  • Long-term biological survey work will be crucial in filling the knowledge gap and serving ongoing conservation efforts in gill woodlands.

  • Gill woods represent unique combinations of semi‐natural woodland features and for management purposes – because of the soil and vegetation sensitivity and year‐round wet conditions – many of the principles applied to wet woodlands (i.e. minimising rates of change, maintaining mature habitat, and extraction with extreme care and sensitivity to avoid ground damage etc.) should be followed.

The report will be of particular interest to anyone developing or updating a woodland management plan.

Download report 
An overview of the character and ecological significance of gill woodland in the High Weald AONB

Woodland management guidance 
Surveying for archaeological features in woodland